Bulawayo City Council (BCC)’s recent Hawkers and Vendors’ tariff hikes, will encourage bribery and sextortion scandals as female informal traders are incapacitated to pay these fees.
This came out during a meeting facilitated by Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD) focusing on the topic ‘Hawkers And Vendors’ Tariffs Hikes And Their Impact On Informal Traders In Bulawayo.’
The poor economic condition of the country has forced many into vending to survive. In Zimbabwe, a large working population is in the informal sector and traders continue to plead with the government to recognise and respect the sector as it has contributed significantly to the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
“The issue of increasing the hawkers fines will encourage a lot of corruption in our sector. There is going to be more bribes because we will not be able to pay such high amounts of money,” said Pretty Mpofu, an informal trader.
“Women are going to be forced to succumb to sextortion as they defend their interest to continue trading and fend for their children,” said Mpofu.
Speaking during the Public Opinion Space, the Director of the Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA) Mr. Michael Ndiweni highlighted that the 2018 International Monetary Fund report stated that 70% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (gdp) comes from the informal sector which provides more evidence on why the sector should be highly revered.
“The government of Zimbabwe needs to recognise the informal sector and value its contribution in the economy as well as include it in National Economic Development planning. This is simply because it contributes a bigger percentage to the country’s earnings. The 2018 IMF report indicated that 70% of the GDP came from the informal economy,” said Ndiweni.
The taxing style and the legislation passed by the local authority is a hindrance and will deter informal traders from their businesses yet the sector is the backbone of the economy.
“The proposed fines for alleged illegal vending and flouting are unrealistic, and are bound to increase corruption levels within the trade as most vendors are not going to be able to pay the full required amount,” added other delegates.
“The evolution of the tax regime is colonial, it deprives and forbids informal trading. Even the legislation put in place seems to be a drawback as it discourages vendors from trading,” reiterated Ndiweni.
A participant identified as Donga bemoaned the relocation of vendors from the Central Business District to their nearest residential areas citing poor income levels.
“I really do not understand this cleaning process. The Council should be cleaning the City and not the people. May the Council allow us to go back to town so that we can trade in a manner that is profitable for us,” said Donga.
Others lamented poor infrastructure, citing their goods were going to be destroyed by harsh weather conditions especially those operating from Highlanders and near Red Cross.
Bulawayo City Council (BCC) Ward 17 Councilor Sikhululekile Moyo however, revealed that proper structure would soon be provided for in due course.
“A donor who works with the Council has promised to donate shades. Council will prioritize vending bays at Highlanders and near Red cross so that vendors’ goods are protected,” said Councilor Moyo.
A representative from the Ministry of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation, Deputy Director Isaiah Mpofu urged women to register their small businesses in order to access cushion funds from the government to grow their businesses.
“The government is making efforts to help business owners especially around this time with funds to cushion their businesses. They must know that they will not be expected to pay back these loans so women and youths should come forth and claim these funds,” said Mpofu.
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